Today President Bush demonstrated that the domination of both houses of Congress by the Democrats creates a real opportunity for him to look more effective than he has in years, advance his image in the eyes of the public, and perhaps even assure some sort of positive legacy, simply by vetoing the right bills.
Today President Bush vetoed the $606 billion domestic spending bill which contained over 2,200 personal earmarks for Congressional pet-projects which were pure pork, as identified by laid out several key reasons for doing so.
• The bill includes $22 billion in spending above what Bush requested for 2008, and even more unnecessary spending in the next 4 years adding up to a total of $205 billion in extra discretionary spending mostly on earmark projects. The rate of increase in spending is three times the rate of growth of the economy.
• The bill fails to do anything to address to ballooning costs of Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements. President Bush had asked for some simple reform measures which Congress made no effort to even consider.
• The bill would allow the President’s tax reforms to expire, resulting in “the largest tax increase in history”, which would be devastating for the economy and for American citizens and would likely actually reduce government revenues in the resulting recession.
If the Democrats had half a brain between them they would have made an effort to keep pork junkies like Chuck Schumer (D-NY), David Obey (D-WI) and Robert Byrd (D-WV) who loaded this bill with earmarks, under control at least for a year or two. That would have given them an opportunity to play the role of protectors of the public welfare and put the blame for both deficits and cuts in services on Bush. But after 6 years out of power the greed buildup was too much for them to control and they went hog wild.
Despite excessive war spending, President Bush has actually been pretty successful in keeping domestic spending under control and in producing a strong economy and increasing government revenues through his tax cuts. One result is that he is actually ahead of schedule on his plan to gradually balance the budget and put government spending back on a responsible track. His plan had the budget balanced by 2012 or possibly sooner. So far he has generally exceeded his deficit reduction goals and reached target deficit reduction levels ahead of schedule. The extra spending included in this budget would have pushed back balancing the budget by at least two years and the damage done by the tax increase might push it back indefinitely.
Unfortunately, the votes on this bloated budget were pretty close to the number needed to override a veto in both the House and Senate, so it may return with all the pork and get passed despite the veto. But it’s likely all good for Bush, because it creates for him the enviable position of being able to present himelf as the defender of fiscal responsibility and lets him put all the blame for future deficits on the spendthrift Democrats, who are certainly somewhat guilty for climbing on the porkwagon, but who are hardly to blame for all the money sunk into the Iraq War and past years of excessive Republican spending, which adds into the total budgetary mess Bush may well get away with laying at their feet.
At the end of this struggle it’s going to be pretty easy to make the argument that the Democrats were totally fiscally irresponsible and went wild for pork and decided to pay for it by raising taxes and wrecking the economy. It may not be the whole truth, but it’s going to be a believable scenario and the Democrats have brought it on themselves. If you’re not a George W. Bush fan, you should be pretty angry that simple greed has led them to play into his hands like this.